I spoke with Dr. Christine Ristaino about her memoir, All the Silent Spaces, where she wrote about a violent assault that took place 12 years ago in front of her two young children. The attack brought to light two private sexual assaults she had kept silent about for decades. She has now discovered her powerful voice against violence and discrimination. Christine wants to change the way we talk about sexual violence in this country so survivors and their families will have voice and agency during the healing process.
In this episode of the Woman of Value Podcast, you’ll hear:
- How a public assault helped her finally heal from two private sexual assaults
- The importance of finding your authentic voice and speaking up, especially against violence and discrimination
- Learning to take a stand for your truth, even if it angers others
- Discovering the power of vulnerability
- Feeling pain and trauma fully so you can heal
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Show Notes: A Powerful Voice Against Violence and Discrimination
“Finding value in myself didn’t happen all at once, it happened over the course of twelve years, as I was writing my book, All the Silent Spaces. At first, I could only talk about and acknowledge an attack that had happened in public, when I was beaten up by a stranger at a store in front of my 3- and 5-year-old children. I thought my book was about that. But my book started to write itself, and I felt compelled to let the process unfold and see what I would discover.
A year and a half into the writing I realized two other previous experience with violence had to be included. This meant telling my family about something that was probably incomprehensible to them, that somebody they all loved had abused me. Once I told them, my whole place in the world changed. I stopped mediating and began sharing my own opinions. I didn’t know it at the time, but my voice wanted, needed to have a presence in the world. Writing helped me become who I was meant to be, a woman with a powerful voice and a story to tell.”
Finding Her Voice after Violence and Trauma
8:44 She was molested at 8 or 9 and raped violently at 21, and she just went on. She believed those events didn’t effect her. When you ignore your voice in a profound way, it becomes easier to stay silent.
11:23 We discuss the importance of vulnerability and learning how to feel. It’s easy to intellectualize, but without feeling the pain and hurt, you can’t move on to heal. That’s when she heard her voice and saw herself for the first time ever, realizing she had a lot to give to the world.
Learning to Be Authentic vs. Nice
15:00 She spent a while after the attack being afraid, but she still loves people and wants to connect deeply with others. The conversations now are much more meaningful. She no longer wants to be nice at the cost of being authentic. The result? She’s doing a better service to the world. We learn not to air our dirty laundry or share our difficulties. Being vulnerable is a strength, not a weakness.
Confronting and Overcoming Fears
19:37 She was attacked by a black man, and at first she was afraid of men who looked like her attacker. She learned not to overcome that fear. She tells the story of the father of her daughter’s friend who offered to tutor her daughter. He’d be alone with her, and she was scared to have a man be alone with her daughter because Christine had been molested as a child. She finally told him why she doesn’t trust men to be alone with her daughter. He worked with her to help her allay her fears.
The Little Girl Is Me
34:00 The original title for her book was The Little Girl Is Me. She didn’t realize that the little girl she was talking about in the book was not her daughter, it was herself who was feeling shame. It was herself who thought it was her fault. The book wasn’t about race as she thought, but about the ashamed little girl who needed to heal and get her voice heard.
Finding Your Power and Voice
55:00 How to find your power and voice? Start small. Start with a ‘sandwich’. Find out what that means here. Keep sharing your stories and speaking up. It gets easier the more you do it.
Connect With Christine